The story sculpted in this pillar from the Srirangam temple is quite unique. Have not come across similar depictions anywhere else. In order to appreciate this pillar sculpture we got to go and read the Ramayana.

Indrajit,the evil but extremely talented son of Ravana, hurls a magical missile at Laxmana ( Rama’s younger brother). He is mortally wounded and as per expert medical advise sought on the battlefield, the only cure is a rare herb Sanjeevani, that only grows off in a far off mountain. Hanuman jumps across the ocean in search and since he couldn’t identify the specific plant, he uproots the whole hill and brings it back ( refer to the comment by Kathie on the post on Narthamalai)

This story is known to most of us, but what other troubles did he encounter in this trip. This is what is portrayed in this pillar.

hanuman croc srirangam.jpg

Having heard from his spies of Hanuman’s quest for the herb, ravana speedily dispatches one of trusted lieutenants - his uncle Kalameni, a demon to the foot hills of the hill. He disguised as a sage, welcomes Hanuman and since the mountain is very pure, requests him to go take a bath in the nearby pond. ( which is bewitched by a gargantuan crocodile). On stepping into the pond, he is swiftly swallowed by the crocodile. Hanuman uses his strength then to split the crocs belly and emerge, when Lo - the crocodile carcass disappears and there stands a beautiful maiden. She is Dhanyamaali, a heavenly nymph, who was cursed by dhaksha. Having heard all this, hanuman is red with rage that the false sanyaasi who delayed his quest, goes to him, drags him by his hair and kicks him - which launches him into high orbit and he flies and falls dead in the throne room of Ravana.

False rishi and Hanuman.JPG
hanuman srirangam.jpg
take this - hanuman.JPG

This is what is being depicted in this pillar. Look closely - to the left you see the sage ( just coming into the picture) pointing to the pond, then you move right to see hanuman emerging from the croc’s belly and then Dhanyamaali thanking him. Switch back to the left, lower panel - you see hanuman dragging the false sage and spanking him.

What an amazing piece of work, such detailing of the crocodile’s body, its feet, the majestic form of the emerging Hanuman ( remember this is part of the same series of pillars which we analyzed is so much detail earlier with regard to the horse rider - this is a similar pillar - you can see the hind legs of the horse coming into frame with its anklets etc)

There is another legend of someone emerging from the belly of a crocodile which is also depicted in sculpture, which we will see in the coming posts.

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Category: Sculpture

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This entry was posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at 7:59 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

13 Comments so far


I have a question…
do these artist follow these myth from any manual or they use any myth randomly…
I am asking this because usually performers in india tend have manual based on which the artist uses their own creativity and make subtle changes to it….

September 23rd, 2008 at 8:58

Dear Vairam,

Interesting question - does art follow literature or vice versa. I firmly believe that sculpture followed a strict regimen which led through a long apprenticeship - wherein they learnt the scriptures, nature, human anatomy etc etc. This should have happened something during the late pallava period, because the early pallava, pandya ( post 7th C CE) sculptures are true expressions of pure artistic beauty. The later pallava Rajasimha shows some character, legends and repetitive forms coming in. We will see them shortly.

There is another stream of thought based on the legendary varAhamihira’s encylopediaic work - which included among others a kind of guide for representing hindu gods. The dating of this work is unclear and as you rightly pointed out the artist did add his ‘touches’


September 23rd, 2008 at 9:28

Hmm. Good post.

November 3rd, 2008 at 5:00

Thanks a lot for this post

November 5th, 2008 at 22:11

ஆஹா, கடைசியில் இந்தக் கதையா அது??? :( முதல்லேயே தோணலையே? :( வாழ்த்துகள் விஜய், தேடித் தேடிப் போடும் உங்கள் உழைப்புக்குத் தலை வணங்குகிறேன்.

April 13th, 2010 at 16:28

I get to hear as well as see many stories thru you.


April 14th, 2010 at 13:05

hi virutcham

thanks - our land is the land of epics - n short stories intervined with those epics. not necessarily fm the same author or source but no less entertaining.


April 15th, 2010 at 5:21

Brilliant and simply amazing work, nice to know about this legend as I was not very much aware of this. These simple simple tales helps a lot in our iconography and identification of stories carved into these stones.

May 28th, 2010 at 16:12


முதலைக்கதையை உங்கள் இடுகையின் மூலம் தெரிந்து கொண்டேன். கதையை என் தளத்தில் பகிர்ந்து கொள்கின்றேன், உங்களுக்கு நன்றி தெரிவித்தலுடன்.

முதலில் அனுமதி பெறவில்லை. தயவு செய்து மன்னிக்கணும் .

April 4th, 2013 at 14:05

dear thulasi gopal, As long as you quote the source you are free to share. rgds vj

April 11th, 2013 at 9:59

Terrific. I have puzzled over that sculpture for a year, should have checked here first :-)

First, I think literature modifies or deviates from the source narrative with each retelling, and in keeping with the times and the skill & taste of the author. Occasionally, writers (Silpa sastra, Vishnu Dharmottara, Tholkaappiyam) try to codify art, and artists find new ways of breaking out of those shackles.

Second, Economics also plays a very important part.

Finally, we are making sweeping statements based on a very small fraction of the art that has actually survived.

April 16th, 2013 at 8:23

very true gopu. rgds vj

April 16th, 2013 at 11:34
ஆறகழூர் பொன்.வெங்கடேசன்

சிறப்பான விளக்கத்துக்கு நன்றி சார்

May 10th, 2016 at 20:10

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